Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Stranger's Goodbye

     I was cleaning out some files in my home office yesterday and found a poem I had written in 2002. It was prompted by an obituary I read in that day's paper. I'm embarassed to admit I actually sent it to the newspaper to see if they would put it in the Opinion section where they publish reader's letters to the editor. (Did I just admit that??) They didn't. There were more noteworthy letters to publish about much more important things going on in the world.
   So I filed my little poem away and forgot about it. I wouldn't have found it at all if not for the cleaning kick I'm still on. I thought I'd post it here since in this tiny little part of the world, I'm the editor.
     I think it sums up why people read obituaries, or at least why I read them.  It's not out of morbidity. It's empathy. We read the departed's name, a few facts about them, the names of who will miss them, and we think of that soul for just a moment.  For that moment we connect with strangers grieving for the same person. Deep down we are hoping that when it's our obituary in the paper, a stranger will take a minute to think about us.
     The obituary I read that day was for a child. Empathy is the most profound when it's because the life lost is a child's. We take a few extra moments to think about those young souls and to grieve with those families. 


I read about you in the paper today
Right after the story of the war far away
After I read of the murder of a mother and son
And after the story about the hit-and-run
I had already read more about ground zero
And saw the memorials to local heroes
There was a story about germ warfare
And more about the Anthrax scare
Page after page about all that is bad
Strange, but I should have felt more sad
Then it was after the announcements of births
That I read about how you left this earth
You were only thirteen, just crossing the street
You were hit and the world didn't miss a beat
They mentioned what happened in just a few lines
But when I read them I began to cry
You were just a small figure in a sea of lives
Another child un-named that needlessly died
But you were the world to those who loved you
For them the world stopped the moment they knew
What can be said to bring them comfort?
Can anything ever heal their hurt?
Perhaps the memories of you can ease the pain
Or the knowledge that now you are in God's hands
Just maybe it helps to know that others care
That the loss of your life mattered to a stranger out there
That your story, although obscure among all the rest
Was read and will be remembered the best
I'll pray for you and for those whom you loved
May God keep you in his love

     That's my post for today.  It's a little bit sad, but a little hopeful too. Our human emotions, whether they be sorrow, empathy, joy, or fear, connect us all and enable us to relate to each other. We may not share the same experiences, but we do share the same emotions. When we feel these things for one another we're reminded that we're not alone. Even among strangers, we're not alone.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith


Savira Gupta said...

It is a beautiful and sad poem. How true we all share the same emotions and yet we are so distant from one another

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

What a lovely, lovely poem! I, too, read the obituaries. I look at the pictures, read about their families, and wonder what their lives must have been like, or if they had any regrets in the end.

I'm so glad to know there's someone else who feels this way. Thanks for sharing!

aladdinsane12 said...

that's a wonderful poem. very well-written and beautiful. they should have definitely published it!

Unknown said...

Oh that was just beautiful! So sad, but lovely. I read obituaries too, for the same reason you do. I just feel like someone should.

Fred J said...

To anyone who wonders why I married this woman, please see the above.

I read the comics. Not so sure why she married me...

Sandy said...

That was lovely. They should have considered publishing it. Thanks for sharing here.